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Published On: Tue, May 16th, 2017

Chiquita Papers: How the banana giant funded Colombia’s civil war

nsnbc : In February 2017 the office of Colombia’s Prosecutor confirmed that companies who financed armed groups, including Chiquita will face charges for crimes against humanity. The Chiquita Papers reveal how the banana giant financed the civil war in Colombia by primarily funding the right-wing paramilitary AUC, but also by paying money to the leftist FARC and ELN.

Chiquita LogoTen years ago Chiquita Brands was sentenced in the United States for financing an international terrorist group. In 2007 Chiquita Brands confessed to paying the right-wing paramilitary United Self-defense Forces (AUC) and also admitted that between 1989 and 1997 funded the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia – People’s Army (FARC-EP) and the National Liberation Army (ELN).

Newly declassified documents show that the FARC-EP, the ELN and to a lesser degree the EPL, along with their dissident offshoots and political allies all profited from Chiquita’s “security payments”. Unlike payments to the AUC, Chiquita’s payments to the FARC, ELN and EPL were not a concern of U.S. courts because the United States had not yet designated these guerrilla as terrorist organizations. While the FARC and ELN were so designated in October 1997, the court found no evidence that the company had paid either of them beyond that date.

The payments made to the guerrilla groups were designed to appease the groups and guarantee that their personal and facilitates would not be harmed by those involved in the country’s armed conflict. Based on the documentation provided to U.S. authorities by Chiquita and subsequently obtained through FOIA requests, it is possible to document payments from Chiquita to Colombian guerrilla groups of an estimated $856,815 in a little more than five years, from October 1991 through 1996. These totals do not include any money transferred to guerrillas before October 1991 or after 1996. Payments are said to have begun in the late-1980s and continued through part of 1997. The figure of $856,815 does not include any money transferred to guerrillas before October 1991 or after 1996 with payments said to have begun in the late-1980s and continued through part of 1997.

Chiquita, aware of the irregularities of the payments disguised them by assigning colors to the payees as well as using fictitious names such as “carved wood”, “gasoline” and “boys in the hills”. The payments were recorded in what they named as a “citizen security account” and were mostly processed through Banadex and the Fruit Company of Seville, subsidiaries of Chiquita in Colombia. Partners of the multinational such as the Banazuñiga and Banacosta companies were also mentioned in the financial records. Between 1989 and 1997, when the guerrilla payments were made, there were 54 massacres in the banana zone municipalities of Apartado, Carepa and Turbo, according to information from the Observatory of Conflict and Memory of the National Center of Historical Memory in Colombia. The guerrillas assassinated 181 individuals in 21 of these massacres. Fifteen of these were attributed to the FARC.

In 2007, Chiquita Brands was fined $25 million after being found guilty of paying $1.7 million to now-defunct right-wing paramilitary AUC , between 1997 and 2004. The multi-national which ended its Colombian operations in 2004 claimed that it had paid the money to the paramilitaries “under pressure.” However, the testimony of former paramilitaries indicated that far from being extortion, it was in fact Chiquita who initiated contact with the AUC and who used the AUC to target trade union activists, rights activists, and other “inconvenient dissidents”.

The Justice and Peace tribunals in Colombia have documented how money that banana companies gave to private security cooperatives known as Convivir ended up with the AUC. However, until now there has been little evidence of how cash from the fruit multinational made its way into the hands of leftist Colombian guerrilla groups. Some sources close to the ELN told nsnbc that payments to the ELN and FARC were primarily paid as compensation for atrocities committed by the Chiquita Brands financed AUC.

The now published Chiquita Papers are especially important because in December 2016 Colombia’s Attorney General ruled that the voluntary financing of paramilitary groups by banana companies is a crime against humanity, and that payments to guerrillas from the FARC, the People’s Liberation Army (EPL), the ELN and the Socialist Renovation Current (CRS) are to be treated in the same manner as payments to the AUC. The ruling means that the crimes are still actionable in Colombian courts despite the passage of time and that the Colombian justice system must fully investigate the violations to punish those responsible.

A/N & CH/L – nsnbc 16.05.2017

Access the source documents of the Chiquita Papers for detailed studies here: 19920904; 19930311; 19950516; 19950616; and 19950000

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